Want to see beautiful artichokes up close at the market and then enjoy them fried or braised? Join one of our food explorations in Rome!
The best thing about the rainy, early spring time in central Italy, is arguably the fact that it is artichoke season. During this time of year in Rome they use a variety of artichoke called cimaroli that has no thorns or hairy central choke. This means, all that is needed to do, is trim them, cook them, and the best part, eat them. These Italian-native artichokes are harvested in the months of February to April. In May will come the gorgeous globe artiuchokes locally called romaneschi. Here are some recommendations on how to cook this tasty vegetable in 5 different ways.
Jewish style “alla giudìa”
As you walk the streets of Rome, you will inevitably stumble across the Jewish quarter which is near the Tiber Island. One of the most popular treats made in this area is carciofi alla giudia (Jewish style artichokes). The recipe dates back to the Roman Empire, when the Jewish community in Rome was at about 50,000, and are mentioned in cookbooks dating back to the 16th century. Obviously, a recipe so old and still so popular, is worth trying out.
After a good cleaning and soaking in lemon water, the Romanesque style artichokes are seasoned with a simple salt and pepper and then fried in olive oil. Once fried sprinkle them with a little cold water so they crisp-up. By the end they should look like golden sunflowers and have a delicious, nutty crunchiness.
Braised “alla romana”
In Rome specifically a popular dish is carciofi alla Romana, which directly translates to “Roman-style artichokes”, and is a key component in traditional Roman cuisine. Carciofi alla Romana is exclusively prepared and served in the spring time due to the seasonality of this appetizing vegetable being during this time. This dish is prepared with the Romanesco variety of artichokes.
After trimming the artichoke free of its inedible spines, hair choke, and tough woody section, you have a beautiful vegetable ready to be cooked to perfection. The artichoke is then stuffed with a mix of parsley, lesser calamint, garlic, salt and pepper and dropped into a deep pan of water, white wine and olive oil – which steams and poaches them at the same time. Once tender and all liquid is evaporated, they can be served straight out of the pot or, if you can wait long enough, at room temperature.
Another way to make artichokes, which is very similar to the Jewish style, is carciofi fritti. This simple recipe is very common in Rome and the surround areas during the spring time. Once clipped of its leaves and quartered, the best way to keep the slices from turning brown is by letting them marinate in lemon water until ready to fry. When ready, they are patted dry and drenched in a flour and egg mixture and deep fried to golden and crispy perfection. You do not want your oil too hot or else the outside will cook before the inside and will sadly burn.
One recipe you might not have heard of, because it is purely Roman is Pinzimonio, or in Roman slang, cazzimperio. This “raw” dip is simply made with olive oil and salt and optionally vinegar. As opposed to steaming them and dipping them in melted butter, in Italy pinzimonio is good for crudité, or raw vegetables, and especially artichokes.
Coratella con carciofi
Another traditional, and tasty, Jewish-Roman dish is Coratella con carciofi, which is a classic Easter Sunday breakfast item. It is made with lamb’s “pluck” (which is the liver, lungs and heart of a lamb), artichokes, onion, and an assortment of seasonings. This ancient Roman specialty is tasty and simple to prepare.
Like for many artichoke dishes, you need to clean the artichokes, quarter them and drench them in lemon and water so they do not oxidate and turn brown. Next, sweat the chopped onion in oil and add the artichokes, stock and salt and pepper. Once that has been simmering for about 30 minutes, you can now add the chunks of lung in a separate pan, and waiting 15 minutes before adding the heart, then another 10 minutes for the liver, for extra flavor, add white wine. Cook for 2 more minutes until the liver has lost its rosy color, and add the artichoke/onion sauté. Enjoy with with fresh lemon juice and sprigs of fresh mentuccia. Coratella should be served piping hot.